At Freedom Park summer 2010

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Missing Starskey

Oliver Alert uses a quote that goes something like "never give up on something you can't go a day without thinking about" or something to that effect.......Well, I am not giving up and I don't think I have gone an hour without thinking of Starskey.  I can't tell you what has made him so special to me because all of my pets have been special and each have their own unique story as well.  Maybe it is just because I started out with Starskey as a baby and he blazed new territory and pathways in our lives and hearts and in our home!  Okay, it is also because I have no answers.........That is the part that absolutely SUCKS!

I sit here at the computer and look out the window at the porch swing that became such an important part of our day and our together time.  It swings in the wind and brings memories of a  warm little puppy snuggle on my lap as well as an almost grown dog trying to get on it when it kept moving away.  Learning to jump up didn't help much there - the swing still moved and he was not sure if his effort would be in vain or not - but he insisted on swing time daily.  I held it still while he got up on it and then we sat together and watched the events on and around the pond.

It was warm enough to use the clothes line yesterday.  I missed my helper - well, my audience would be more like it.  I found your football Starskey!  Your rubber insert survived the winter and is here for you to throw and chase.  It was once a real official football that my grandson, Phillip, left here.  It was funny to watch Starskey try to carry it in his mouth to whatever spot in the yard he planned to lay on it and try to chew on that leather round thing.  Phillip would come over and throw it for him to chase but we quickly figured out that tennis balls were easier to retrieve and haul back to the thrower.

It took Starskey 6 months to finally break that leather shell on that football but it only took him a week to have it completely peeled off - only to find that there was still a round air-filled thing inside.  It was made of rubber and not nearly as easy to chew on - but be did manage to get it popped before all his sharp little baby teeth were replaced with the smoother adult teeth.  You might wonder what a dog would find fun about a popped rubber football insert........well it is made of something akin to an inner tube.

Rather then trying to rip it to shreds Starskey took greater pleasure in shaking it to death or shaking and tossing it so he could chase after it.  He got quite adept at launching it several feet away, requiring him to run after and tackle it to reclaim it.  I would watch him play this game with himself for hours wondering whether he was playing with himself, with the rubber football or an imaginary opponent.  At any rate - it was an exercise he enjoyed and played alot.

Dufus was here again this morning.  He checks out all of the dog houses (we have 3 - assorted sizes) gets a drink from the heated bowl and then inspects the yard.  He misses his little buddy.  I did find some photos of them together when Starskey was still pretty small....they look funny together but they were best buds.

In spite of his size, Dufus is very gentle and I think Starskey won most of their wrestling matches.   Dufus misses you Starskey!

The cats have been acting strange too.  Every time I pick up the Starskey toys in the house and put them away in a basket on top of his Pet Lodge the cats get them out again. They don't play with them - they just get them out and put them back where they were on the floor in front of his Lodge....I have given up and just leave them there now.  On occasion I will catch Midnight sleeping on the rug in front of the Lodge - the same place he slept when you were inside it sleeping.  It took a while but Bugger has adopted the pad in front of the fireplace.  She still looks down at it, from her perch on the foot stool, and sniffs the air carefully before actually getting on it.  Maybe making sure it is okay..........

Jeff is certain now that I have gone crazy.  His patience with my search and my grief is getting much shorter.  He says it is time to move on.  Move on to what?  I still see him go over to Starskey's toys and move them around with his toes (when he thinks I am not looking) and he keeps the water dish full but I bet if I asked him he would say it is because the cats drink out of it too.

Camping season is coming and I don't know what that will be like without you.  There is a camp chair by the firepit that is designated as yours. The lawn chairs will be brought out again soon too - and I will be expecting to see a black body curled up on the cushion in the sun.  Who will ride in the front seat of the car and on the golf cart?  Who will help pick up the branches in the yard and remind the geese which side of the pond is theirs?

Starskey - it is time to come home to all of the ones that love you...................

Friday, March 25, 2011

I am missing my walks

I think I have gained some weight this past couple of months.  I haven't been walking like I used to.  Walking alone just isn't any fun and I don't have anyone to bring the ball back to me if I throw it out ahead of me.  I am missing my Starskey in more ways then I had been thinking of in my grief.  Having him was good for me too.  He made it fun to do the things that I really didn't enjoy doing because I usually had to do them alone.

Walking with Starskey is always an adventure.  Around the farm we could walk off leash and he could wander a little ahead and to the sides of me as he sniffed around to see who or what had been there since our last walk.  Squirrels were always fun to chase up the tree but once he got them up there he didn't know what to do.  They would just sit in the branches and cuss at him and he would just look up at them and tip his head and cock an ear and wonder what the heck they were chattering about anyway - he just wanted to play...... 

Frogs and toads were almost as fun for him to chase as it was for me to watch.  Of course if you were going to chase them you have to move the same way they move - you know, hop.   Ever watch a long legged dog try to hop?  There is this nose that seems to hit the ground first, followed by a head shake and a sneeze (or snort) and the look around to see who saw that - and then he is on the next hop with a similar landing.  Eventually one of those close encounters between his nose and the ground will alert him to another scent...............a mouse or shrew.

Okay now mouse tracking is a serious job.  You keep your head down and your nose on the scent and you follow that scent even if it leads you in circles.  Keep in mind that Starskey is no longer looking where he is going.....his eyes are on the ground in front of his nose and he is seriously following that mouse trail - even if it means running straight in to the mower deck because the mouse ran under it...Ouch!  Look around - did anyone see you do that?  No, okay back to tracking.

A half mile walk around the pond could actually take us over a mile by the time we have done all the busy things we need to do.  We check out all the tufts of grass, give the geese plenty of space (as we walked past their nest), follow a deer trail and sniff some poop.  This is just on the way through the yard and across the dam.  Then we are in the timber and there are trails all over the place.  Mice, raccoon, deer, geese, turkey, opossum, Dufus, Mom, Dad, the kids, squirrels and even a snake or two.  The smells are intoxicating and the dead leaves, damp ground and assorted animal poop is perfect for a serious long and twisting roll on the ground.  That done it is time to shake it off and head in the direction of home.

Do we continue on the trail around the ponds - or do we dive in to the water and take the short cut?  Well Starskey always had that choice but I didn't.  I walked the rest of the way around the ponds and sometimes he came with me but sometimes he headed for the water.  If he swam he would always meet me on the other side - properly shaken dry and having rolled in clean grass so he was ready for a hug and a rest in the lawn chairs in the sun.

I need to get walking again - with or without my walking partner but it sure would be a lot more fun and a lot more interesting with Starskey to walk with.

Come home Starskey - it is time for our walk.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Starskey's Pack

Good morning all.  I thought maybe I should tell you a little about the pack Starskey became a part of.  We're pretty diverse and....interesting?  Well - the interactions are anyway.  

You already know about Jeff and I, and you have learned about Midnight (the better bell trainer) and you have read about the initial potty trainers Pilot and Pokey, but they are only cousins he got to see once or twice a year.  He has other cousins he got to visit  from time to time - 3 labs and a frenchie/boston cross at my other daughter's house - not to mention a total of 7 grandkids. 

Starskey's daily pack was a bit smaller and consisted of the two people who loved him, the tomcat that teased him and two female cats that mostly avoided him......and the Akita, whose real name is Sam but we didn't learn that until we had been calling him Dufus for a year or two.  He doesn't seem to mind and answers to both names.

Starskey was curious about the cats - especially the ones who would sit at the top of the steps and look down at him all of the time - but would never come down to play.  They interacted very little (when he was awake) and he was really quite oblivious of their presence when he was sleeping or busy chewing on a rawhide or something.  The cats, on the other hand, were very curious about Starskey.

No dog had ever been on "their" turf before and this one was about the same size as them - but he was one of those things that moved fast like little kids do - so obviously he was something to be avoided - yet studied.  When he was napping they would come down the stairs from the living room to the family room and get a closer look at him.  As time passed they would get closer and closer and even sniff him.  He seemed to be harmless, in this condition anyway.

Starskey would stir and the girls (Spook and Bugger) would bolt for high ground or hide under a coffee table.  He became a source of great interest as they watched him stretch and yawn and rearrange himself on his floor pillow.  He still seemed pretty harmless.  Eventually though he would wake up and then he would want to play if he spotted a potential playmate and they wanted nothing to do with that.

Starskey and Midnight shared a different sort of relationship.  It was one of respect and courtesy.  They would sit and just stare at each other for long periods of time.  I always wondered what was going through each of their minds as they "stared down" each other.  If one moved then the other one did too - but maintained a respectful distance.  Midnight would hop up on the couch and Starskey would look at him like "how come you can and I can't".  Midnight would lay down and Starskey would lay down on the floor in front of the couch.  

As time passed a cat paw would begin to hang over the edge of the couch and Starskey would carefully sniff it.  Midnight would open one eye, slowly pull the clawless paw back or give Starskey a slow gentle pop on the nose....not enough to "start" anything - just enough to let Starskey know who he was dealing with and then close his eye and go back to sleep.  Starskey would just watch him for a while, cocking his head from side to side and then resume his nap as well.   

A sitting cat meant a sitting dog.  A slowly moving cat meant a slowly moving dog but a running cat - well that was just and invitation.  The trouble was that Midnight ran faster, jumped higher and crawled in to places Starskey couldn't get.  I would watch Midnight run from point A to point B and then point C and D leading Starskey on a merry chase about the yard.

Dufus (the neighbor's Akita) had always been a daily visitor at our house, as had his mother before him.  He would come over daily to visit our Jack (a Jack Russell mix) and Missy (American Eskimo).  When Missy left us (at about age 15) Jack was kind of lost so welcomed visits from Dufus.  Jack, however, had been Missy's eyes for her last two years and as her caretaker (and 10 year partner) he was kind of jobless when she passed.  We lost Jack in December 2009 to age and grief I think.........but Dufus continued to visit daily and check on us.

Dufus was delighted when Starskey arrived.  He kept a respectful distance for the first few days.  Starskey was a dwarf next to the height and size of an Akita but Dufus was patient and gave Starskey some time to settle in and then he introduced himself.  Talk about a Mutt and Jeff pair - these were the two.  Dufus would lay on the ground and let this puppy crawl all over him and then they would roll around together and lay facing each other playing their own version of Rock/Paper/Scissors.  Starskey was in heaven to have somebody to actually roughhouse with - and Dufus was a very gentle giant of a friend.  I'll have to find some pictures of them together.

Dufus still comes over every morning to see if Starskey has come home yet.  He is often here again in the evening, just to check - especially if he has heard the van come or go.  He knows how much Starskey loves a car ride! 

The pack is here waiting for you Starskey - it is time to come home............


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ringing the bell.....

So how do you go about house training a puppy when you have never had to do that before?  The first suggestion is to get your puppy with some friends who are already house trained and can show him the ropes, so to speak.  After about 2 weeks at my daughter's house with her two dogs to help - we had a pretty good start on things.  He went out when they went out and he did what they did and then they all sniffed each others jobs and barked to come back in.  Loves and atta-boys were given all around.  This wasn't going to be too tough.

Now my daughter has her pit trained to ring the bell hanging on the door when she needs out.  I don't think Starskey paid a whole lot of attention to that part of the training because he was just too busy running and playing and sniffing and napping.  He just followed the routine that Pokey and Pilot had and fit his own to that.  Therefore it became a bit of a challenge when we got back home and had to do it on our own.

I had a string of Christmas bells hanging on the doorknob of the back door.  That way I knew when someone came and went from the house if I was busy doing something.  One day I heard the bells while I was working on the computer and looked up to see no one at my door but the tom cat.  I thought maybe the sound had come from the TV so I just went back to work.  Then I heard the bell again only louder - and still no one around but Midnight.  I shook my head and went back to work.

The damn bell would not stop ringing and it finally got to be more then I could continue to ignore.  I got up and walked over to the door to make sure it was closed and the wind wasn't making it move enough to ring the bells.  It was shut tight.  Midnight looked up at me and meowed so I leaned over and scratched his head then went back to my desk to go back to work again.  The damn bell rang again!

Now I know I have a ringing in one ear from a bonk on the head I got several years ago - but this was a bell and it wasn't in my head.  I stood by that door looking at those bells and dared them to ring again.  A slim black paw reached up and batted the bells then batted my hand.  Could that be it?  Was the cat ringing the bells?  The bells rang again and Midnight meowed and pawed my hand.  I reached out and turned the door knob and his nose was in the crack before I could even get it open.  I opened it up and out he went.........Okay - that was a lucky guess!!!

The bell rang many more times after that and each time the ring was followed by a meow or Midnight was patting me with his paw to pay attention to him.  Smart cat to train himself to ring a bell to get let out when he wanted out.  What was even smarter was that he began to knock on the window when he wanted back in.  Apparently I don't hear "Meow" very well through a closed window so he figured out another way to get my attention.

So now we come to my half trained puppy that I can't let run around outside all by himself all day and who needed a way to let me know when he needed to go outside if I got too busy to notice "the signs" in time to get him outside before an accident occured.  Hey - I have bells on my door and he just spent a couple of weeks with Pokey so surely he knows what the bell is for.......well almost.  Good thing there is no rug by the door because - well, we were both still learning.......

I began to set a timer and every hour I would take him to the door and try to get him to ring the bell.  He would watch me, cock his head and lift one ear and think "how kool" and just sit there.  After a few minutes of bell education I would just open up the door and take him outside.  I'd sit in the porch swing while he sniffed and rolled and wiggled and all those fun puppy things until he finally went potty.  Then we went back in the house and I set the timer again.  He chewed on his toys, scratched his tummy on the carpet and took a little nap.  The timer would go off and we would start bell ringing class again.........with pretty much the same results each time.

After a few days of this I began to notice that he would go sit by the door from time to time.  I took this to mean progress - Yeah!  He would go to the door and I would go to him and try to get him to ring the bell.  Still got the same puzzled look from him over the bell but when I gave up and just opened the door he bolted out and wasted less time getting his job done.  We were making progress after all......I think anyway.

Well that day does come when I am working on the computer typing up meeting minutes or something and I see Starskey go to the door.  He sits facing the door and turns his head to look in my direction.  Yes, sir Mr. Starskey - I do see you.  Please ring the bell if you want out so I don't have to stop in the middle of a sentance.....instead I hear a whimper.  I spring in to action and I go to the door and ring the bell and then open it for him.

By this time he has figured out that the door does not open unless that bell rings first.  Now that is major......really!  I go outside later to sit in the swing while he plays with his football and drags the branches out of the weeds and finds out that the grass along the edge of the pond has things that jump in it.  He is so funny to watch.  When he is sufficiently tired we go back in for his nap.

Later I see he is sitting by the door again.  I am in the middle of a really good article but I get up and go over to the door.  I pick up his paw and I touch the bells with it.  He looks at them and at me and just sits there.  I pick his paw up and touch the bells again and again he just looks at me and sits there.  Now along comes Midnight (still bigger then Starskey) who looks at both of us just standing there and he reaches out his paw and rings the bells.  I nod and open the door and let him out and close the door again.  Starskey just looks at me, then at the door and then at me like he can't believe I just did that and didn't let him go out too.  And then I heard the bell ring as he stretched out his neck and just barely touched the bells with his I smiled and opened up the door and let him out too.

Just goes to show you what kind of a dog trainer I am.......It took the blasted cat just one demonstration to teach him what I had spent a couple of weeks trying to do.  And it only took that one time because from then on the bell rang when it was time to go out for either of them.  I am just glad that Starskey did learn to bark to come back in.  His paws were sort of big to be knocking on my window!


Starskey - Come Home

Well I was ready to start at the beginning this morning - with when Starskey picked me.....but last night we got a phone call.  Yeah, another hopeful sighting only this time the dog was in hand.  Jeff took the call so all I could do was look on with that huge question in my eyes and my heart beat on hold......Jeff sounded hopeful too when he hung up and told me that Jeromy would call back after he checked the dog's markings and the tags.  Yeah, this one still had tags on.

Okay, my heart can beat again but I am not sure that I could breathe until the next call came.  Close but no Starskey......the tags were from a vet office in a town 20 miles away.  How did he get clear up here?  At any rate the fellow was kept inside until a vet check today to try to connect him back up with his owners........I can't even cry sad tears!  I can cry mad ones because it wasn't Starskey but I can't cry the sad ones - something just won't let me give up.  Maybe his story will let you know why........

Starskey, his mom, aunt and a brother were all owned by a friend of my daughter.  We happened to go to that friends house one day because he was getting ready to move and was selling some things she thought I might be interested in.  Oh did he have interesting things....I picked up cast iron pots for camp cooking, a rocking chair, table covers for my booth displays at craft shows and stuff.  Also got a couple of folding wooden indoor clothes my Mom used to have.  There was more but I needed Jeff to come back to okay the rest.

We walked near the house and this little black furry thing came wiggling out of a hole in the fence and came bounding over to me.....yes - straight to me!  I picked the little fellow up and received abundant kisses while somebody plugged up the whole in the fence before anyone else found it.  We all continued to talk and after he settled down some I put Starskey down.  He sat on my foot.  We walked a few feet to look at some things behind the garage and he walked between my feet.....sat down beside me and stayed there. 

I put him back in the yard behind the fence when I had to leave and he just gave me that "look" and whimpered as I walked away.  I had not planned to get a puppy that day and no one had intentionally set me up for it either.....except maybe my daughter.  I returned the next day with Jeff and the other purchases were approved  as well as some shelving picked out for the garage.  There was one little puppy barking (if you could call that squeak a bark) at the fence.  Jeff asked if that was the pup I told him was so cute......well - yeah!

Jeff reached over the fence and picked him up, receiving a big welcome kiss and lots of love himself.  He looked at me and I looked at him and that was that.  Starskey would come home with us too, but not before we got a place for him to sleep that was more suited to his size.  Our doghouses were all quite large.  It just so happened that there was such a facility available as well.  It needed a little repair but would work fine to start out with.............The white 5 point star on Starskey's chest meant that the name his mom's owner had given him was going to stick and off we went with a loaded truck and new pack member.

We had never had such a little fellow before so we had some learning ahead of us!  It was April and the weather was warm enough for him to be outside days and inside at night.  He took to his new home right away.  His only problem was that black tom cat that was bigger then he was and it wouldn't play with him....just sat and looked at him from a perch too high for Starskey to get to anyway.  I am not sure that Starskey ever really figured out that the black cat wasn't bigger then him anymore...but the cat knew it and teased him anyway....staying just out of reach.

Starskey's early days were spent in an area that included the back deck, some yard and an over sized doghouse full of pillows to snuggle in.  He would lay on an insulated pad and sun himself between excursions through the day lilies, wood pile and yard.  His very favorite things to do was to ride on the porch swing and take walks.  He would lay on my lap on the swing but not for long periods of time....he had things to do.  He pulled the sticks from the wood pile, rolled in the day lily leaves, chewed on anything he could find and did just about anything else that suited his fancy.  In the evening he would sleep, exhausted, at our feet or in front of the fireplace (that might be going on a chilly night) until we put him to bed in his house kennel with his teddy and a treat.

Yes, you did read that right - his teddy.  His first night at our house he was exhausted.  The second night he realized he didn't have a brother, mother or aunt to snuggle and he cried.  I found a Care Bear teddy in the grand kids old toy box and put it in bed with him.  That was all it took.  Care Bear no longer has eyes or much of a nose but he is still the bed partner.  There is another teddy at the camper that is also still in pretty good shape.  Apparently bed partners are more sacred then other stuffed toys because the others got destroyed with great relish.

Like I said - we had never had a dog this little before so we were learning right along with him.  Having been raised on a farm Jeff had never had a dog that was allowed in the house.  I had been raised with dogs in and out, but mostly out - because we were in the country too.  The decision to let Starskey become a house dog was a big one for Jeff and limits were still set.   Our floors are covered in dog cushions and beds for him, since he was not allowed on upholstered furniture.  He did find that camp chairs and the deck chairs were comfortable and okay for him so he made use of all of them.

When he grew tall enough to get his paws up on the porch swing great fun began....well it was fun for us but I am sure that it was great frustration for him as the swing would move away from him before he could get his back half on it.  After a couple of attempts he would either resign himself to lay under it or he'd go find a deck chair that didn't move.  A morning swinging session was the rule for the two of us.  I would hold the swing steady as he learned how to get himself up on it and then we would sit and swing and cuddle for as long as he was able to keep from getting distracted by a squirrel or a frog or something that needed checked in to.

The bell story will be next.......


Friday, March 18, 2011

He is still Missing

I woke up about 5:00AM this morning.  My mind was swirling.  My blankets were being held down by our senior black cat (Spook) on one side and by her daughter (Booger) on the other.  Normally that is a warm, safe and comfortable feeling - but this morning it felt different.  Not a trapped feeling but a lonesome feeling.  I tried to go back to sleep but couldn't. 

I have always had hope of finding Starskey but I have also been prepared to find him dead in the ditch - but he is not to be found anywhere.  I almost would prefer to have that closure then this feeling of uncertainty and limbo.  I have never felt that he was dead and even when I felt prepared to find him in that condition - something told me that was wrong and that he was alive, but I had to look in those places anyway - just to be sure.

The thing that we found so distinguishing about him (the white 5 point star on his chest) has become just a white mark in the eyes of others.  Do you have any idea how many black dogs there are with a white mark on their chest?  I only know about the ones in about our 4 county area and the ones listed as lost on the internet.....and I can see why we are still receiving calls of sightings of our Starskey.  I am so greatful to all of the people who are trying so hard to help us recover him but I am so frustrated.

My husband says I have become possessed.  Maybe I have.  I still get meals fixed, the house cleaned and the other stuff needing done is done - but I spend hours on the computer checking websites for FOUND dogs that might be Starskey and sharing reports of other lost dogs so that their owners might not have to suffer this prolonged uncertainty.  It makes me feel better most of the time but it also makes me sad to know how many lost and needing pets are out there.  I almost get mad when I read a post about a reunited pet and family - because I want that for myself so badly.

I've had dreams of how to prevent this from happening again.  In those dreams we are putting up all the fences that we tore down when we bought this farm 30 years ago.  I see myself restraining Starskey in ways that we have never restrained any pet that we have had in the past.  Yes, we have used cables and a small outdoor kennel over the years - but they were for short term and emergency situations.....that is not how our pets were made to live.  They ran free and roamed our property (and part of the neighbors) but they knew where home was, where they were loved and they always came when called. 

Starskey had only left home once, for more then a bounce through the tall grass across the road.  He went garage saleing with the Akita one day.  He got 3/4 of a mile down the road.  When the neighbor called me - I went and got him and he spent the rest of that day in that outside kennel.  As far as I know - he never did that again and never even crossed the road unless we were outside where he could see us.  At least that is what I want to think......but he always came running when called and always was right there when I went out the door - until that day in December when he went out and just vanished.

I have come to believe that he was picked up or stolen.  He was such a charming fellow and he loved a car ride so any open car door was an invitation.  It is just that with so much local publicity and so much effort on our part - I just can't believe that someone hasn't heard that we are looking and that we want him back home.  We didn't kick him out - we let him out to go to the bathroom..........

I see in my Facebook news that some people are reporting their dogs stolen and finding them listed for sale on the internet or recovering them because somebody sold them and the buyer had them vet checked and found the ID chip.  That is really scary!  As charming as he is Starskey is just a mix breed without the ability to pass his genes on - so what other reason would someone want a year old pup?  Maybe I don't want to know all the answers to that question....but why Starskey and why in the corn fields and snow drifts of Iowa when there are so many more in other places?  

I know - playing "what if" doesn't help any.  Getting it off my chest does though.  Like I said - my husband thinks I am possessed and he doesn't want to talk about all of it anymore - to me at least.  I do hear him telling other people about Starskey and of how hard we have looked and are still looking......I guess that is the bottom line - the uncertainty is killing us both but we just can't talk about the "feelings" with each other anymore.  That hurts because, without evidence to the contrary, I have to believe he is alive. 

Okay - I know where I am going next with this.  I am going to tell you all about the wonderful little puppy that picked me to be part of his pack - and about the 9 months that I was allowed to be a part of his life.  I'll be back.................


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Starskey is Still Missing

I wish I had started this in December - when I spent my first night sleeping in the basement with the curtains wide open, the lights on dim, the TV on with no sound and all the yard lights on just so he could find home and see me through the window and bark to be let in.  That didn't happen and I spent two more nights like that before I could believe myself that if he barked to be let in I would hear him even in bed. 

He had been let out for his morning break and it wasn't 10 minutes later that we were outside as well, scooping snow and starting the tractor to clear the drive and parking lot.  We thought it was odd that he wasn't trying to help us as he usually did.  He was normally my shadow.  We just figured he had gone in to the doghouse where it was a bit warmer then it was outside.  When we finished chores we checked the doghouse and it was then that we realized he was actually missing. 

Of course the first place we looked was at the closest neighbor's house, a half mile up the road.  Starskey's best friend, the Akita, lived there.  The Akita was home and Starskey hadn't been there.  About 4 hours had passed by now and we knew he would be getting cold even if he was having fun in the snow.......As my husband drove around calling for him, I began making phone calls to all the neighbors to ask if they had seen him.

Those first few days were so full of hope because we had plenty to do.  Posters were made and distributed around the community and several surrounding communities.  The radio station was contacted to broadcast the LOST DOG discription.  Neighbor's door were knocked on and photos with our contact information was provided to them in case they saw him.  They all knew him already, because he sat in front of the shop each day and watched the cars and trucks go by, but saving them the time to look up our phone number just needed to be done.  Miles were driven as we criss-crossed the countryside searching for him - in the ditch, in the fields and along the road.  No Starskey was found.

Our grandchildren hit facebook with the news and photos of him and asked all their friends to help find him.  They took posters to school and put them on their lockers.  They gave posters to all the bus drivers and teachers.  I posted him as lost on RESQ, the site for his RFID chip thinking that if he got hurt or picked up - that would be the first thing checked for to find us. 

The phone calls began......first he was seen here and then over there and then way over there.  I drove one way to look while my daughter and the kids went the other way.  We found dogs - but not Starskey.  We even found a dog or two that looked similar but were way too big or had no white star on their chest.  He looks like a Lab but he is only the size of a Border Collie but people were calling us for almost any black dog - so we had several to rule out but the next call might really be him so we didn't mind.

We were doing something and so in our minds it was just a matter of time before we would find the naughty fellow somewhere and get him home for a bath and a good scolding.  The days kept passing.  Christmas was here and I didn't even want to go see the rest of my family because I was afraid he might come home while we were gone and think we didn't want him anymore.  I knew that was not rational - but it was how I felt inside.

That doghouse is heated.  It is as warm as the house inside and he occasionally took advantage of that while outside playing....but he was a Border Collie Lab mix so he was sturdy enough to handle a little chill, even with the shorter coat of the Lab (and even though he spent his nights in the house by the fireplace).  I made sure the heater was on in the doghouse, filled his heated water dish, placed a bowl of food in the doghouse and reluctantly left for the Christmas holiday.

We got calls while away and I had a friend or two lined up to check out any sightings so things were covered but I still felt guilty on both fronts.  I felt guilty for leaving and how do you tell your family that you feel it is more important to stay home and wait or search for your pup?  Oh they all would have understood.  They all have pets and we had animals all over the place as I was growing up.  But I also knew they would be more realistic then I was feeling at the time so I made my arrangements and went to be with them.

We talked about him, shared the memories and pictures of his first car trip to Illinois and his meeting with my daughter's crew.  They were the trainers for going potty out doors.  Pokey was also a very gentle playmate and supervisor while Pilot was his normal stinker self.  He and Starskey tussled over the chew toys so I just went and bought them all their own.  I shared Starskey's development since they had last seen him and told some funny stories of his adventures at home and while camping.  It was a good holiday and I came home with sence of peace and a satisfaction that I had done nothing wrong to make him run away.  I also had a renewed sense of hope that now he would be easier to find because I would feel less stressed and less guilty.

The local newspaper had taken an interest in our search after I had written a letter of thanks to all of the folks who had helped us look for him and to those who had reported having seen him.  I included information on where to report found pets and on how important it was to get the word out about a lost pet as soon as possible.  It was published right after Christmas.  I had no idea that the editor would call and interview my husband for more information and then take the combined information and facts to do an artical about our continued search - complete with his photo.

By this time I had found Oliver Alert and Pet Finder and several other internet locations to post to.  I have since made some wonderful friends within this world of rescuers.  We share searches and finds and sometimes just the memories.  I had no idea that the technical search for Starskey would become as important ans as necessary as driving the roads and walking the trails and going door to door. 

I guess that is what I hope to make this blog about - in the end anyway........about what it feels like to lose a beloved pet, how it affects you and your family dynamic and where it leads you.  Maybe during the whole process I will be able to share what it is like to be reunited as well.....but in the meantime this is a chance for me to let it out....about Starskey, about the other pets that I have fond memories of and just about loving an animal and being loved by one.